The Best Color Light That Helps You Sleep & Other Sleep Solutions
Did you know natural light comes in different colors and may affect your sleep quality?
It's true. Light plays a crucial role in our sleep quality and duration. While some may think it boils down to lights off for sleep and lights on for staying awake, the answer is much more complex.
Our relationship with light, darkness, and sleep is connected to our body's core functioning, including our internal clock or circadian rhythm. We can't simply turn off the light and forget about it until we need it the next day.
Humans are affected by daily light exposure to light. Duration, timing, and color of light all play significant roles in our sleep quality and overall health. Depending on these factors, our sleep quality can be improved or diminished.
Studies have concluded that specific colors are more conducive to producing consistent, high-quality sleep. However, the modern world and its increased screen times have amplified the concerns and risk factors associated with certain everyday artificial lights and how they may affect us.
With subpar sleep quality linked to many troubling health conditions, ranging from insomnia and anxiety to long-term effects, including diabetes, heart attack, hypertension, and stroke, many are now prioritizing their light exposure. Read on to discover what researchers say are the possible best light color wavelengths to help you sleep.
What Are Color Wavelengths?
As Issac Newton first noted, color is the quality of visible light. Light is visible and non-visible to humans, and is classified by frequency, wavelength, and energy.
These waves are categorized into various colors, ranging from :
Frequency (1014 Hz)
How Does Light Affect My Sleep?
Our understanding of the relationship between light and restful sleep continues to evolve.
The circadian system found in humans and animals tends to be made up of a 24-hour cycle. While some of us may deviate from 24-hour cycles to some degree, most of us have an internal clock requiring approximately eight hours of daily rest for our functions and energy to be optimal.
For several decades, researchers have delved into the effects of light on humans' circadian rhythm. Numerous studies have combined to conclude that the timing, intensity, duration, and wavelength of light all affect our internal clocks substantially. These findings mark an ongoing sharp shift in our thinking on the subject.
Early analysis between light and humans led many researchers to conclude that we are insensitive to light. These findings often noted that social cues are more impactful on our circadian rhythms. Today, however, we know that is not the case .
Decades of modern analysis have provided a firm but evolving understanding of how light wavelengths and sleep are intertwined. Modern life's demand for exposure to artificial light in homes, offices, and on various screens has added an intriguing new element to the research.
We do know that light is a specific type of electromagnetic radiation. With natural daylight, humans are exposed to various intensities depending on whether they are indoors or directly exposed.
Exposure to natural daylight helps regulate our circadian rhythm, positively affecting our sleep patterns and mood. This effect is made possible by the skin's absorption of the sun's UV B radiation, which is converted into vitamin D. Vitamin D is known to increase energy through the release of serotonin .
Research has also concluded that exposure to daylight in the morning can help our bodies align our internal clocks with the Earth's day-night cycle, which can help improve our chances for a restful night of sleep .
Our bodies need a certain amount of exposure to natural light each day to help maintain our circadian rhythms and overall sleep quality. However, humans are also exposed to various forms of artificial light throughout the day, which can significantly affect our internal clocks.
Depending on your work schedule and daily routine, humans can be exposed to a variety of artificial light ranging from:
- Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
- Electro-luminescent Lights
- Fiber Optics
- Fluorescent Lights
- Halogen Lamps
- High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Lamps
- Incandescent Bulbs
- Induction Lamps
- Laser Lights
- Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
- Metal Halide Lamps
- Neon Lights
- Photographic Flashes
- Plasma Lamps
- Sodium-Vapor Lamps
- Xenon Arc Lamps
Exposure to artificial light during nighttime hours can incredibly harm our sleep. Research has shown that such exposure can lead to our bodies suppressing their natural melatonin secretion. When this effect occurs, a person will often experience sleep onset latency while increasing their alertness, keeping them awake longer .
The detrimental effects of light on our sleep may be more profound than once believed. In 2022, researchers noted that even small amounts of light can increase blood insulin levels and lead to heart harm .
Best Light Color for Sleep: Red
More recent human-based studies have allowed us to further understand light and sleep, specifically which colors are beneficial or detrimental to our best quality. Remember that the research into light color and sleep is ongoing. While additional research is required, some have suggested that red is the best color light for sleep.
Red light is defined by its longer waves, between 360 and 700 nanometers. 660 NM is the most commonly used wavelength for red light therapy. Red light is believed to penetrate the skin, improve blood flow, and improve our sleep by increasing melatonin levels without affecting circadian rhythms .
In a study of 20 female basketball players in 2012, researchers in China concluded that players who received 30 minutes of full body red light therapy from a tanning bed-like machine saw improved sleep. Researchers noted that these individuals had improved melatonin levels compared to those in the group that did not receive red light therapy . A 2019 study of participants exposed to red light during sleep concluded that exposure reduced sleep inertia when waking up .
While some have found red light beneficial, pushback has been reported in some clinical research and anecdotes. Additional research is needed to understand the effect red light may or may not have on our sleep.
Worst Color Light for Sleep: Blue
Blue light is defined by its short wavelengths, between 450 and 495 nanometers. While the sun is the primary source, many today associate blue light with fluorescent lights, LEDs, and screens from various tech devices. About 1/3 of all visible light is of a blue frequency .
When properly used, blue light can help regulate our internal clocks while improving memory, brain function, and overall mood. The best results tend to come during the daytime, but all too often, many will use blue light throughout the evening and into the late hours of the night . These practices can become detrimental to our sleep quality.
Research has noted that exposure to blue light can lead to a suppression of melatonin secretion, which can adversely affect sleep onset and quality. It is believed that even a small amount of blue light can cause detrimental effects. While this may be great for daytime productivity, it's a burden when trying to sleep.
These findings are particularly concerning, with many people going to bed while watching LED TV, looking at their phones, or using tablets. Similarly concerning could be the impact night shifts or alternating work schedules have on individuals, with blue light from screens and LED office lights potentially impacting workers' sleep quality.
Still, additional research is required for a complete understanding. Some research has suggested that numerous other factors could be the cause or part of the cause of adverse sleep quality . Still, most recommend that reducing screen time and other blue light exposure at night isn't a bad idea.
What About the Other Light Colors?
Additional research is required, but most agree that red light is the most beneficial for sleep, and blue is the most adverse. But what about other colors like green, pink, purple, white, or any others on the spectrum?
At this time, we don't have enough research to make inclusive statements about the efficacy of these light colors. Depending on the source you turn to, you may see these colors considered beneficial or adverse.
Meanwhile, some studies suggest that any type of light harms our sleep quality and circadian rhythms. These findings often suggest eliminating light from wherever you plan to rest.
How Else Can I Improve Sleep Quality?
For some, reducing light could be the trick. But in many cases, one or more factors could be part of the root problem.
In addition to reducing light exposure at night, many have improved their sleep quality through methods such as :
- Avoiding caffeine late in the day
- Reducing or eliminating naps
- Various sleep supplements
- Set your bedroom temperature to a warmer (70F) setting
- Avoid late-night eating
- Late-night relaxation methods (yoga, meditation, etc.)
- Relaxing shower or bath at night
- Switching to a firmer or softer bed (Depending on your sleep issue)
Contact a medical professional to rule out or identify any potential sleep conditions or disorders.
Want to learn more about light colors and sleep quality? Be sure to check out the rest of the Snoozy blog to discover more!